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SHP Lone worker series, sponsored by People Safe
Roger Vickers, consultant and retired chief superintendent, South Yorkshire Police
Despite what you might see in the media, the UK remains a fairly safe place for people going about their day-to-day activities.
However, people who either work alone, whose work takes them into areas where attacks are more frequent or who sometimes make their way home late at night, may need to exercise particular caution.
There are several possible responses to these situations; the first is to be aware of where you are and what you are doing. Do you really need to be alone in a particular area late at night? Should you walk or take a taxi? Perhaps you could always make sure that you visit some locations with friends and travel home with them. In other words take responsibility for where you go, with whom and if in any doubt give it a miss!
If a major component of your work involves meeting members of the public either alone in an office or visiting a clients home or premises the approach will be somewhat different. Giving it a miss is no longer an option so the approach from both you and your employers has to be aimed at maximising your health and safety.
The purpose of what we might call a passive personal attack alarm is to surprise and confuse the attacker, by emitting a loud shrill sound giving you a chance to escape and also to draw the immediate attention of anyone in the vicinity that someone is in trouble and needs assistance.
An attacker will not wish to draw attention to what is happening and will be counting on frightening a victim and gaining their compliance. In circumstances where an attack is actually underway, say in a lonely street late at night then a passive attack alarm may perhaps be the best solution.
However, setting off an alarm, which emits very high decibel sound, perhaps flashes or sprays an assailant with dye is obviously aimed at surprising an attacker and giving a victim time to escape. Unless someone is nearby, able and willing to intervene the victim would remain alone, will someone call the police?
In my opinion a passive personal attack alarm has the following disadvantages:
We have to be aware of these disadvantages and take everything into consideration when making a decision about what kind of device to purchase. We have all heard household and car alarms sounding near to where we live and the truth is that the likely assumption will be ‘another false alarm’. In day-to-day life we sometimes ignore the things around us that seem unimportant at the time, and just go about our business. There is often so much background noise that we have grown accustomed to police, ambulance and fire service sirens or car and burglar alarms and therefore expecting someone to respond to a simple passive personal alarm is an increasing gamble.
The second solution to an ongoing or feared ‘attack’ situation is a monitored alarm, such as a ‘Peoplesafe’ lone worker device. These come in several guises including being installed on your own mobile phone, a handheld device or the award winning Identicom device that looks and acts as an ID badge but is actually a sophisticated personal attack alarm. These have considerable advantages over a passive alarm;
So, a monitored alarm has none of the disadvantages of a passive alarm and device activation will guarantee contact with the user and/or speedy assistance. The author would not seek to discourage those who may be alone on social occasions late at night in a public place from carrying and using a passive device that may indeed deter an attacker.
However, as a health and safety solution for lone workers it is clear that a monitored alarm provides the most suitable and discreet response to a potential as well an actual risk situation.